I have previously reviewed the top of the range Devolo dLAN 1200+ WiFi AC powerline adapter, and we loved it.
Today I have the more affordable dLAN 550 WiFi starter kit, which as you can imagine offers the same functionality the 1200 but at a reduced speed of up to 500 Mbps via Powerline and 300 Mbps via Wi-Fi.
I am a huge fan of powerline adapters in general, WiFi may be the most convenient solution, but it is unreliable and speeds degrade fast based on distance and obstacles in the way of the transmission. I personally try and stick to old fashioned ethernet which is by far the best solution, but also an absolute nightmare to implement. Powerline provides a nice in between, using your homes electrical wiring as a physical medium to transmit data point to point. It still suffers from some performance degradation dependant on distance and the quality of your wiring, but it is nowhere near as bad as WiFi.
Devolo have expanded the functionality of these adapters by including a WiFi access point at the end point of the adapter. So you get the reliability of a dedicated connection plus the flexibility of WiFi. This is great for large homes with spotty internet connection, having the access point built into the adapter is far more reliable than WiFi boosters that are a common solution to improving the signal around a house.
This particular model is essentially an upgrade from the older 500 WiFi Starter Kit. The new model improves the WiFi from 150Mbps to 300Mbps. The range has also been increased, from 300 metres to 400 metres. Wired speed remains at 500Mbps, so the 550 title is a bit misleading.
The actual starter kit includes a base adapter that plugs into your router then the AC adapter which has 2 ethernet ports that you can use to connect whatever device you want.
Setup is extremely simple, you can pretty much just plug in, press the pairing button and go. For more advanced configurations you can easily log into the adapter itself and change settings such as SSID etc.
All these Powerline Adapters are HomePlug compliant, which means additional adapters can be added very easily and you aren’t restricted to one manufacturer either.
As mentioned earlier, you will not get the advertised performance from either the WiFi or Wired connections. This isn’t Devolo conning you, it’s just the theoretical maximum speeds, all the manufacturers use these numbers, you just have to live with it.
As you would expect, it is a lot slower than the dLAN 1200+, and in fact, it is worth noting that the ethernet ports are limited to 100Mbps so that’s the best you can hope for anyway. However, the performance was decent, I tested it in multiple rooms using multiple file sizes and I managed to achieve peak write speeds of over 90Mbps and peak read speeds of over 70Mpbs with speeds dropping by around 30% or so for some of the more distant rooms.
Overall, as usual from Devolo, this is a great product, it’s easy to set up and performs well. It isn’t exactly cheap though at £99 RRP, and you can get the older model for £60 which will be adequate from most people. I, personally, would recommend forking out the extra money and getting the 1200+ and future proofing yourself a little, but this model is probably only really needed if you are transferring large files around internally or have many users. For most casual users that just want a reliable connection to the internet this is both reasonably affordable while being very reliable.